The number of female gamers in India is on the rise but yet not equal to male gamers. According to the Lumikai State of India Gaming report FY22, the male:female gaming ratio was 60:40, with equal representation from both metro and non-metro cities. Yet, one of the taboo subjects that needs to be discussed is gender inclusion.
Women encounter challenges every day. Working women are expected to manage their personal and professional lives simultaneously, and when they venture into areas where males have long held sway, the difficulties they encounter are unfathomable. Take gaming as an example. Over the years, men have cultivated the prejudices that women can’t play video games and can’t drive. No one has ever classified gaming as a man’s pastime throughout its history, but women gamers still encounter preconceived notions like gaming is not women’s play. While we advocate for equality, we also hold women-only tournaments to show and encourage women that gaming is a safe space for them to experiment.
There are many female gamers in India who have established their identities via tenacity, dedication and eradication of negative stereotypes and insults directed towards them. Some believe that this could be because they see it as a competition and some said being classified as a woman in gaming is the reason.
Popular influencer in gaming, Kanika “Kani Gaming” Bisht says, “First, I believe we shouldn’t be classified as female gamers, but just as gamers. In gaming, there should not be any genderism, as the game is the same as the skill sets used for it. The only difference is the different challenges girls and boys face. As girls, we face difficulties like being judged on the basis of our appearance, being judged on our gameplay just because of our gender, and so on.”
The women gamers who have already created their identity in the community have inspired a lot of females in the country. According to Fanclash co-founder and CEO Richa Singh, who is a gamer as well, “We have ace women gamers who have demonstrated their talent. Players like Shagufta “Xyaa” Iqbal, Monika “Sherlock” Jeph, and Saloni Panwar (Meow16k) are some of the top Indian female gamers. From competitive tournaments to streaming platforms, women are taking up the mantle of game-making and game-playing with new avenues for representation and storytelling. We anticipate a climax with shattered gender stereotypes associated with gaming if this trend continues.”
Influencers take on harassment and online bullying
A lot of female gamers are unable to express or leave a mark in the community due to the terror of being bullied or harassed. Despite being supported by family and peers, women have been bothered by the hate comments which they have received in their streaming career. To protect themselves, many female gamers have concealed their identities in the gaming community. Animation Xpress reached out to popular Indian gamers to know their story:
Prachi “Agnees Gaming” Lingwal shared that her family has been supportive but she has faced problems regarding the growth of her gaming audience. “I want to say there will be many ups and downs in this field, so be patient and continue to do your work. There is bullying in every field you work in, and I too have faced such things, but with time, we learn to handle it. There’s nothing to worry about; just keep focusing on your work and ignore hateful and negative comments. Kuch toh log kahenge, logo ka kaam hai kehna.“
Kani Gaming has simply learned to ignore hateful comments and bullying. “Because where there is success, there will be people to pull you down. But I believe that the more you get pulled down, the more you will rise and go up the ladder of success!” Speaking about players concealing their identity, she said, “Yes, I’ve seen such instances. I respect their decisions and privacy. Not everyone’s mindset for dealing with negativity can be the same. So they feel prevention is better than cure. The community needs to understand the preferences of every creator and support them the way they are.”
Aaradhya “Vibe with Aradhya” D Sawant shared, “I come across numerous bullying and hateful comments frequently in my streams, my video comments and DMs. Most of them state that I should leave gaming or I am famous because my brother (Dynamo) is famous and that I am using my brother’s name to rise to fame. Through this opportunity, I would love to address that, it is the most difficult responsibility to live up to a name that has already been made. These trolls give me immense power to come back with my skills and knowledge. I am proud of the fact that the Indian gaming community has started accepting me as an individual creator which also makes me push myself further and I try to add as much diversity in my content as possible.”
Sawant believes in the ideology that “a journey without challenges and constant triggers is no fun. My biggest challenge was having to prove myself over any other female creator because of the tag I had of being a sister of a popular gaming creator. However, I genuinely want to thank the haters and trollers for being my constant motivators.”
Sawant has a different take on concealing identities. “Respecting privacy is something that everyone should do. If there are female gamers who want to conceal their identity because of personal or other issues, it is totally fine and should be respected. But those who do it due to harassment and bullying, I would tell you: believe that what you have achieved is yours to celebrate and be proud of it. Nothing can stop you once you are dedicated and ready to face any consequences in your journey.”
Monika “Savage Girl” said, “I believe that if you are a girl, you will have to deal with online bullying or hateful comments sometime in your life. To be honest, this is something that makes the girl even stronger to face the world. There are millions of people with easy access to everything, we cannot restrict everyone and ask them to change; therefore, it is better to ignore it and let it go. I also get unpleasing comments, but I never let them overpower me or my confidence. I am going to keep doing what I do. I believe that if I have haters, I have the assurance that yes, I am doing something great, and I am happy about it.”
She added, “It was a bit challenging for me to fit in the community, and it took me more than the normal time to prove my worth. To this day, I receive disheartening and sexual comments. I don’t take them personally because I know those are not the people who actually love gaming or the spirit of gaming; they are just attention-hungry wolves who would target any woman they see. Female influencers, gamer, or public figures are more prone to them, but as I said, it is just part of the journey. There are only a few humps in the road that can be avoided.”
Savage Girl does not see the point in hiding one’s identity because if anyone takes the initiative to do something, it will have both positive and negative consequences. “After all, we are gamers, and we have a natural competitive spirit. To all the female gamers out there: gaming is a glorifying world, and everyone is going to embrace you with open arms. Therefore, don’t fear anything. You have done nothing wrong. Come out of your shells and proudly say you are a female gamer, and I am sure the Indian gaming community will always be by your side to support you.”
How has the journey of female gamers been?
Not all gamers can show courage. A lot of gamers are unable to explore the ecosystem despite having better skills than male players. The moment a gamer gets popular with large numbers, it becomes difficult for them to track every follower. But sometimes, their relatability and skill which has connected them to the audience may not turn out to be pleasant.
Hyojeong Park, a South Korean YouTuber better known online as Mhyochi, experienced harassment while conducting a live stream in Mumbai. The video revealed two boys approaching the YouTuber and attempting to hold her hand despite her protests. One of the boys offered the woman a ride on his motorcycle, but she declined. He followed her for sometime before leaving her alone.
Agnees Gaming said, “It has been a hard journey for female players to enter the gaming industry; there is a lot of family pressure on them. I have seen many female gamers who are very good but are unable to pursue a career in the industry, maybe because of the underlying stereotypes and gender bias. Female influencers in other fields are well accepted and praised, but I believe that when it comes to gaming, this is not the case. I believe it takes more than the usual effort to prove our worth. However on a positive note, the gaming community recently has become a bit more welcoming and encouraging for female streamers.”
Kani Gaming said: “There are many gaming events, tournaments, and so on. that we all can participate in! There are challenges, just as there are on any other platform, but these challenges pale in comparison to the opportunities in the gaming world!”
Vibe with Aradhya mentioned: “One concern is the perception in the market that it is easier for a female to become famous in the gaming world. But are girls supported because of their beauty or their game skills? It may take some time to figure out an answer. Talking about myself, I have experienced mixed reactions along with an equal amount of support and troll.”
Savage Girl commented: “The gaming world is indeed considered a male-dominated genre in the world of content creation. But, unlike in the real world, women have proven to be just as good as men, whether it’s gaming or any other male-dominated task. I would admit that in the initial stages when the wave of gaming just started in India, women were not welcomed as much, and they later had to go through some disheartening comments; but there has been a lot of change in the mindset and sportsmanship of the men in the gaming industry. In the past, I believe, gaming was solely focused on game skills, but now it’s also about content creation skills, as well as great audience engagement. So if a girl out there wants to try out her luck in gaming, I guess this is the right time.”
Richa Singh said: “For years, I was an avid gamer, which ultimately motivated me to establish a business in fantasy esports. It was not a cakewalk, especially for a woman, when most stakeholders are men, right from investors to consumers. In recent years, there has been a huge shift in the gaming industry, with a remarkable stride towards gender equality as women showed their ability to compete with male gamers on an equal footing. They took part in game development, designing and marketing.
Krutika “Krutika Plays” Ojha shared, “Embracing diversity and inclusion in the gaming industry is a goal that we are constantly striving towards. The gaming industry can tap into a wider pool of talent, ideas, and perspectives, and create games that appeal to a more diverse audience. This not only helps to drive the growth of the industry, but also helps break down barriers and stereotypes associated with gaming.”
“It’s great to see that technology is also playing a great role in making the gaming industry more accessible and inclusive. The rise of mobile gaming and cloud gaming has made it possible for people from all walks of life to enjoy gaming, regardless of their location, age or gender. ”
Kashvi “Kaash Plays” Hiranandani shared, “At 25, I started streaming video games on YouTube even while working as a finance consultant in Singapore. But now I am a full-time streamer. It was a tough choice for sure, especially being a woman getting into a male-dominated industry, but I followed my passion and have never regretted it. When I started, there were hardly any women players but glad that things have changed in a really short span of time. It’s encouraging to see that perceptions are changing and that women are becoming more confident in taking risks and pursuing their passions.”
Saloni “Play Like Incognito” Singh shared, “I have seen organisations recruit professional women only teams in 2022. Currently, a lot of investors have put their money in games like BGMI, Pokémon Unite, PUBG New State and Valorant. We see tournaments happening very frequently with a whopping seven digit prize pool! This means there is a great future and that young women who are esports athletes, can safely invest their time. Not just playing professionally, a lot of other professions have opened doors in the IT sector for gaming as well.”
What will make gaming a safe environment for women?
There are various ways through which we can create a safe environment for female gamers to sustain:
- Equal distribution of female and male players in the teams
- No gender-based discrimination within the community
- Creation of technologically advanced tools which will ban harassers and offenders
- Advertisement and promotion with gender inclusive content
- Hiring more female professionals within the community
- Grassroot awareness in gaming and esports to inspire more women
Here’s what women gamers from the community think:
Kani Gaming said, “Bridge the gap between male and female gamers by not categorising them and treating everyone equally; make this community an equal, fun and safe place to be!”
Agnees Gaming said, “If the gaming industry provides opportunities in tournaments for females, it will encourage them further.”
Vibe With Aaradhya said, “Female gamers can be caring for their fellow members and fierce when it comes to being competitive. The Indian gaming community should realise that female gamers can be the game changers and strategy makers once they are given the chance to use all of their potential.”
Savage girl shared, “I have been in this community for a long time, and I have seen things change a lot, which indeed makes me happy. There is nothing that can be done to create a safe environment, and this is not a one person job. Everyone needs to understand, appreciate, and support the efforts.”
Payal “Payal Gaming” Dhare mentioned, “It’s exciting to see that the gaming industry is embracing diversity and inclusivity, and I hope that it will continue to do so in the future.”
Kaash Plays said, “I hope that the trend of increased representation of women in the gaming industry continues and that more and more women will be encouraged to pursue careers in the industry.”
Krutika Plays added, “The push for greater diversity and inclusion in the gaming industry is not only important for women, but for the industry as a whole.”
Richa Singh shared, “Women are an active part of the gaming community, working to bridge the gap between themselves and their male counterparts. The priority should be crafting safe spaces for leadership identity where women should be able to focus on the job, not overthink regarding invisible barriers, and to create jobs for those women who are passionate about gaming and want to make a career out of it, from game designers and developers to content creators and influencers. Women can also look into roles such as esports commentator or analyst, game tester, or game artist. We need to use more outreach methods to attract more women to this space, as well as provide ample support for retaining and developing the ecosystem’s existing female talent.”
A happy empire was never built in a day. Similarly, the days of struggle shall pass if we strongly hold on to our purpose, identity and debunk stereotypes.
As Payal Gaming opined, “Women bring unique perspectives, ideas and creativity to the industry which helps to drive innovation and progress. Moreover, women’s contribution to the gaming industry has been proven to be instrumental in bringing in a new audience and increasing revenue. Video game designers, programmers, animators, video game testers, game writers, audio engineers, are some of the viable career options one can opt for. Women who are interested in gaming can also opt for careers in education and research, where they can use their skills and knowledge to educate and inspire the next generation of female gamers.”
Agnees Gaming said, “BE YOU. There is nothing to worry about if you have confidence in yourself. Believe in yourself.”